I have harped on a little too much recently about politics and the psychology of fear. I’m sure that someone noticed, after I spent two days saying that there really isn’t much to be scared about, the next loony in line went and shot up a McDonalds in Germany.
I get it. The point of terrorism is to scare people. It’s right there in the name. But I also think it’s important to do the lunch counter thing. If you really want to know what motivates these people, then put aside the easy assumptions and ask them.
Well, it turned out that this time somebody did exactly that. Mid-rampage. A bystander started calling the shooter an asshole, and the shooter responded with probably the simplest justification for his actions. He was bullied. He was German (but clearly didn’t feel that was self-evident). He grew up in a poor area… So just the basic howl of the disenfranchised and self-piteous. None of those factors take away the assholey-ness of his actions, and none of them at all justify what he did, but in these ways he was much like every other mass-shooter. He was the bitter loser who was intent on dying and just wanted to take a bunch of other people down with him. His Muslim-ness was ancillary to his motivations – probably the reason why he felt he was a bullied outsider, but not a driving force for murder in and of itself. It was the Marilyn Manson T-shirt of the Columbine killers. As the video would suggest, in his final moments he was certainly not preoccupied with the caliphate or the end of the world, or any of those other beliefs which would make Isis not kill him if he happened to be an ordinary person in Iraq.
Let’s get this clear: Isis is an apocalyptic cult. It’s Charles Manson writ large – and just like Manson, it likes to claim responsibility for all kinds of criminals in order to make itself look more powerful. It’s done that with a lot of mass-murderers lately. We can choose to play into that delusion, or we can choose to see it as a fringe group with limited resources. Dangerous? Sure. Attractive to disillusioned losers? Certainly. Raping and murdering thousands of innocent (Muslim) people in Iraq and Syria? Yep. But also less of a massive, organised, international spy-army, and more like an isolated bunch of evil nutbags trying to bring about the end of the world.
However, I’m also thoroughly sick of giving these people so much of my time and attention lately.